Come rain, wind or sunshine, Sylvia Thozama Zothe makes her way to St George’s Mall every day, and her blindness doesn’t deter her from her efforts to support her family of four.
She sits outside Mr Price with her little cup and sings hymns for people. Some people give her money, but it’s getting harder to collect enough for bread.
“It’s cold, but I need to help my family. They depend on me. Four people are living off the the money I make here. I need to do what I must to support my family,” she told the CapeTowner.
Sylvia grew up in Eastern Cape. It was when she was two years old, that her mother realised she could not see properly. “My mom then brought me to Cape Town – to Red Cross Hospital, where they said there was nothing they could do. They said I had jaundice, and later on in my life I was going to go completely blind.”
Sylvia moved to Cape Town to try to get better schooling for her and her daughter and settled in Khayelitsha in 2007 after receiving a house from the government. But her situation is still dire, as her children don’t have a bed. “They sleep on the floor. Now that it is cold, we all sleep on one bed.
“I have two children and I’m the only breadwinner. No one helps us at home. We live off my grant and the money I make here, singing. It’s not much but at least I can buy food to put on the table.”
She travels to Cape Town by train every day with her daughter, and while she sings in St George’s Mall, her daughter is out looking for a job. “She wants to go to school and is trying to get money to study further.”
Sylvia’s husband is mentally disabled, and does not work or receive a grant.
“I feel like the government failed us. We were supposed to get help with applying for his grant but it was all broken promises.”
She said because of the circumstances at home, she has to do something. “I’m blind, so I can’t work, but I hope my daughter finds a job.
“Right now I’m saving money to buy my children a bed.”
Sylvia said she learnt to sing in the church. “I used to sing in the church choir. I’ve tried to make a CD but it costs too much money.”
She said her dream is to make a gospel CD and sell it. Asked why she chooses to sing in the CBD, she said: “People are helpful. They give me food and clothing sometimes too, but sometimes it’s a bad day and I get nothing. I wish my circumstances were better, but I must look out for my family. “